Louisiana Can't Appeal $80 Million Grant Loss

| by Michael Allen

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, Louisiana won't regain an $80 million federal grant to expand broadband Internet connections, instead the money will be returned to the federal treasury,

The grant would have provided for 900 miles of fiber optic cable that would stretch broadband to thousands of schools, libraries, health care centers and homes in 21 rural, poor towns that have limited access.

The grant is part of the Obama stimulus plan (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) that has been attacked numerous times by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.

The U.S. Department of Commerce rescinded the grant last month, questioning whether Louisiana could accomplish its plan in the time allowed and whether changes made to the plans met the goals of the grant.

Commerce Department Assistant Secretary Lawrence Strickling in a statement to the Associated Press: "We have worked closely with the state throughout the last several months to rescue this project but have now concluded that we have to move on."

Louisiana officials, including U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, want the Commerce Department to reverse its decision and have asked for the state to have a chance to restructure the plans to meet the requirements.

In a Wednesday hearing on the lost millions, members of the Public Service Commission urged the Jindal administration to press for reconsideration, in sometimes testy exchanges with Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater, the governor's top budget adviser.

The grant process doesn't include an option for appeal, according to the Commerce Department.